WASHINGTON -- John W. Hinckley Jr. said in a copyright interview that he was shocked last week when a jury found him innocent by reason of insanity in President Reagan's shooting.
'I don't feel sorry for Reagan...I helped his presidency,' Hinckley told The Washington Post in a story published in Tuesday's editions. 'After I shot him, his polls went up 20 percent.'
The interview originated with Hinckley, who called the Post three times beginning Saturday from St. Elizabeths mental hospital, where he is now confined.
He said he had prepared a four-page speech to read in court the day he thought he would be sentenced.
'I thought for sure I would be convicted because of the pressure the jury would be under to return a guilty verdict,' Hinckley said. 'I respect them now a lot for just saying, 'To hell with what the public said, we think he's not guilty.''
Hinckley said during the conversations -- made without the knowledge of his attorneys -- that he believed he was insane when he fired on Reagan and three others, that he takes the blame for the shootings and he now feels 'really sorry for presidential press secretary James Brady, who suffered permanent brain damage.
'When I saw Brady on the ground after I shot him .... it was like it was just a mannequin .... I had no emotion about it,' Hinckley said. 'I feel really sorry for him now.
'He's suffered and his life is not what it should be .... I just want to say I'm very sorry about what I did. He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time .... and I just wish, I just honestly wish I could go back before that shooting .... and let him move two inches out of the way.'
But Hinckley said 'I don't feel sorry for Reagan or (Secret Service agent Timothy) McCarthy .... I don't know about (policeman Thomas) Delahanty ....'
Hinckley, 27, said he wants to leave the hospital if his doctors decide he is well. He saw news reports about the public outcry over the verdict and denied he 'beat the rap,' as one newspaper headline announced.
'They act like I'm out free .... It's not that way at all,' Hinckley said.
The Post said during the calls Hinckley was asked questions about his family, his personal life and his confinement at St. Elizabeths to verify his identity. A spokesman for the National Institute of Mental Health, which runs the mental hospital, said Monday Hinckley's calls were unauthorized. His use of the phone is now being strictly supervised since he was only supposed to call family or lawyers.
U.S. District Judge Barrington Parker has scheduled a hearing Aug. 9 to determine whether Hinckley is entitled to release from the hospital. If the doctors determine he is well, Hinckley said: 'I'm going to walk out the door whether the public likes it or not.'
His family and attorneys said they would not request his release until he was well.
Asked if he thought he was ready for release, Hinckley said: 'That's a hard question ....'
There was 'only one person there might be a problem with .... I don't know if you've ever heard of her,' he said, explaining he meant actress Jodie Foster.
'I don't think there would be a problem,' Hinckley said. 'I don't think I would go stalking after her .... If we were in the same room, there might be some problem.'
There was testimony during the trial that Hinckley shot the president March 30, 1981 to impress Miss Foster.
Hinckley said in his hospital room he keeps a picture of Miss Foster taken from a magazine.
As soon as he arrived at St. Elizabeths last Tuesday, Hinckley said people began asking for his autograph. 'I like it here so far. Nobody bothers me .... They call me Mr. Hinckley,' he said.
'I take the blame for the shooting, I take the blame for the eight years before the shooting when I was in that nosedive,' Hinckley said, referring to psychiatric testimony about his depression.
'From the start all I wantedwas for someone to love me,' he said, reading from the speech he had planned to read to the jury.
'I desperately wanted to be loved but I never could give appropriate love in return. I seem to have a need to hurt those people I love the most. This is true in relation to my family and Jodie Foster. I love them so much that I have this compulsion to destroy them.
'On March 30, 1981, I was asking to be loved. I was asking my family to take me back and I was asking Jodie Foster to hold me in her heart. My assassination attempt was an act of love. I'm sorry love had to be so painful.'